Hospitality Management Traits to Look for Instead of College Degrees

There is much to be said about the value of a degree in hospitality management (or any four-year degree). But is four years in a classroom better than four years of full-time, on-the-job experience? Sometimes, yes. But for many hospitality roles, not necessarily. To avoid missing out on quality hospitality professionals, try skipping the college degree requirement and look for these traits instead:

Emotional Intelligence

It does take a level of book-smarts to achieve a degree. However, hospitality is an industry based around people. The strongest candidates have the emotional intelligence and strong interpersonal skills to motivate their staff and appease guests. Use situational interview questions to find out how they handle conflicts. For a more detailed understanding of a candidate’s emotional tendencies, consider talent assessments as part of your interview process.

Communication Style

Management candidates need solid communication skills to be effective and yes, those skills are often honed during college. But there are other ways to figure out if a candidate can communicate effectively and professionally with your employees and customers. The interview itself will reveal plenty about a candidate’s verbal communication skills.

Also, pay close attention to how they communicate before and after the interviews. Are they respectful? Do they follow up and send a thank-you note? Are their application and resume well written? Their written communication doesn’t need to be Shakespeare, but it should still be relatively free from spelling and grammar errors (most of us have access to spell check).

Organizational Skills

Many roles require multi-tasking and wearing multiple hats. It can be easy to assume that a candidate with a degree has these skills as well. But there are other indicators of a candidate’s ability to stay on track. Simple interview questions such as “How do you stay organized?” are fine but try to dig deeper. Ask them to describe examples of past projects they have managed and how they stayed on track. Also, look for any red flags in the timeliness and completion of their application steps.


The best candidates can grow and evolve with the company, especially in lower to mid-management candidates. This is a tricky trait to discover through an interview, as a candidate will always be trying to put their best foot forward. Past performance is the best indicator of future success. When conducted properly, reference checks will be one of your most valuable ways to learn if an individual is receptive to feedback and a good fit for your company.

Partner with Hospitality Recruiters

Even if your qualification requirements are realistic and thorough, finding the candidates that meet them takes some leg work. Hospitality recruitment experts, like the ones at Horizon Hospitality, have the experience and expertise to find and vet qualified candidates. Contact us to learn how.



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